Thursday, April 30, 2015


All of a sudden Martin started doing homework and classwork.  He answered questioned.  The young man who had been doing nothing suddenly became a star player.

He saw me smile at him as I walked by and I asked him what turned him around.  He told me it was me.  Knowing I believed in him made him want to succeed.

I don't know if Martin will be able to pass the final and the class.  He doesn't either.  But, now he knows he can.  It is heart warming to know I had a part in his change of heart.  I don't care what the stats show and thankfully the college does not care either.  Martin let me know I am an effective teacher and the school knows because of comments from students like him.

There are a lot of teachers like me out there.  A former colleague at Packemin is one.  She believes in her students and pushes and prods them to do their best.  She has turned many around.  Her AP doesn't think she is effective.  He doesn't like her lessons and the questions she asks.  He blames her for the behavior of the students that no one else in the school can control either.  He doesn't see all who grow under her tutelage.  He doesn't care.  He wants her gone.  He will do all in his power to get the teacher who believes in her students to leave.  I cry when I think of all who will never benefit from her caring teaching and who will never know the teacher who gets them to learn by believing in them.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This Is What The APs Thought Of Us

One semester I was given a class of main stream and special education students.  The students had all scored poorly on an entrance exam and needed the Integrated Algebra subject taught with extreme patience and in four semesters instead of two.

I just found some old photos that I took of the room we were assigned.  It was an art room. The only board was the little one pictured above.  The students on the side could barely see what was written. Kids were on top of one another and not very comfortable.

The weakest kids in the building were assigned to one of the worst rooms.  It was a team teaching class and it took over three weeks to find a special education teacher capable of working in it.  I was first assigned a young substitute with no special education experience or credits.  She tried but did not know how to deal with one of the emotionally disturbed boys in the room.  When I spoke to the chairperson to get help, she responded by removing the boy, an error I believed because I knew I could have worked with him.  Eventually a good special education teacher, one with a heart and math ability and experience joined me and the class began functioning quite well.  We were one happy, learning family who adjusted to our horrible conditions.

And then a new geometry class was created.  The math AP decided the teacher free that period was not capable of teaching geometry and my program was changed.  I lost my "family."  The kids were also upset.  They did not want a new teacher, they wanted the one they knew and the one they knew liked them.  (Not that the new teacher didn't, they just didn't know her.)

Bottom line, these were "throw away kids."  No one expected them to pass so it didn't matter if the room was awful or if the teachers kept changing.  What a crime.  Two administrators gave them whatever was left over.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Opt Out

I was talking to a fourth grade teacher about standardized tests her students were in the process of taking.  She said one was good but another reduced kids to tears.  I then asked her how many kids opted out.  She said none.  Her school is in the inner city.  The parents are immigrants and the whole concept of saying no to something the school is doing is not something they even realize they can do.  Most just want to stay under the radar and do what people in charge are saying is best for their children.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Changing A Life

Nay wasn't the world's worst student, but he was a far from a good one.  Yet, I saw through his immaturity and knew there was something great inside of him.  I told this to his mom as she sat crying in the guidance office listening to the counselor saying one bad thing after another about her only son. I don't remember what I said, and I know I did not lie, but her tears stopped and she smiled.  I somehow managed to give her hope.

I just got an e-mail from Nay.  He is working and going to school for an MBA.  He is doing great and his mom is proud.  He said it was the college recommendation I wrote that turned him around.  I wrote hundreds of letters and can't remember what I wrote in each but I know ones for kids like Nay took a lot of effort.  I refused to lie or even exaggerate the truth so I spent a long time delving into his character and wrote down where strengths and possibilities.

I never gave those letters a second thought after I sent them out but I now know if one affected Nay so strongly, others must have been affected too.

My AP did not think much of me as a teacher.  He still makes disparaging comments about me, mostly to a staff of newbies who have no idea who I am, but that doesn't matter.  The kids were the one I worked for. Their words are the words that mean something.  Their success and my part in it is all that counts. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bathroom Story

Last week I stopped by Kohl's to return something and remembered running into two of my students there years ago, kids I knew were on late session and should still have been in school.  I asked them why they were out and they looked at me and said.

"Miss, we needed to use the bathroom and you know how disgusting the ones at Packemin are.  We just couldn't go there."
I told them it was a good story and they should be in school, not in a department store but inside I knew they were right.  The bathrooms were pretty gross.

Wonder if they have gotten any better since I left?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Class Room Management

The class was hard to handle and I called the deans more times than I was comfortable with, but, I was at my wits end and needed help.

At the end of the semester I went to the head of security and apologized for calling so often.  He told me not to worry.  Every student I had called about had a file two inches thick in his office.  He said I called less than other teachers and I actually had done a good job dealing with them.

My AP did not agree.  He never stopped letting me know how bad I was at classroom management and to this day, 4 years after I retired, still takes time from department conferences to remind the staff of how awful I was.

I learned never to call him.  Several years later I had another hard to handle class.  This time I went to the Principal for help.  After paying the class a short visit he told me some of the students were incorrigible.  Of course, to my AP, I was at fault again.

Another teacher in the department had a rough class.  She went on sabbatical and he gave the class to a new teacher.  But, before handing over the class, he removed the 3 biggest trouble makers.  The class was well behaved and he never stopped telling everyone how the new teacher did what the experienced teacher could not do.  He never even considered removing students for the old timer.

Judge teachers, but judge them fairly.  Realize some kids are just going to do the wrong thing and no one can stop that.  Stop stacking class and stop blaming teachers for things they cannot control.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Shame On You!

Yes, you heard right, shame on you.  You are the Principal that is allowing the teacher to be abused by his immediate supervisors, probably even encouraging it.  You don't care that the teacher has been in the system for over 30 years and in your school for more than 20 of them.  You don't care that the teacher spends hours of his own time helping his students, before and after school and even weekends.  You don't care about the hours he agonizes over exams and lessons.  All you care about is that you don't like a couple of questions you heard him ask or the problems he has had with students that everyone else in the school has with these kids.  You care about your vindictive, incompetent AP who does not like him and you support that supervisor.

But, mostly you don't care about the children you are in charge of.  You have allowed this AP to make the teacher so miserable that he walked out before the end of the semester.  You sacrificed the education of over 100 students to get a good, caring teacher to leave.  The teacher wasn't perfect, no one is but in the scheme of things that doesn't really matter.  The kids who were fortunate enough to be in his class learned well.  They had a loving, nurturing teacher.  Now they will have a string of substitutes.  There will be no stability There will be no one involved enough in their lives to care.

You claimed to have taken the job of Principal because of your love of children but you are not showing it.  You have your own.  Would you want their teachers to walk out in the middle?  You might as well admit it, you care about moving up on the career ladder and nothing else.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Picketing For Good Jobs

I promised this great group of young people I would post their picture.

They were standing in front of Verizon, on their own time, demanding good jobs, not an unreasonable request.

(2nd Ave, south of 14th St)